By Shafaat Khan
ISLAMABAD: The recently-hired English football coach Stephen Constantine has said that Pakistan football team will be different unit in the World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia.
“I cannot predict what will happen in the coming games but I think the attitude of the players and their willingness to play is ‘exceptional’. You will see a different Pakistan team in both the games in Cambodia and in Islamabad. I don’t know if we win both games or we qualify but you will see the players play what we wanted them to play and that’s for sure,” Stephen told a group of reporters.
Pakistan will travel to Cambodia for the first leg to be staged on October 12 before hosting Cambodia in their home leg at the Jinnah Stadium Islamabad on October 17.
“We hardly got a few days here and we have worked with this group for four to five days. Of-course it’s not easy. We could have more time which we did not. But they have worked very hard. The yesterday’s session was excellent and today it was good. The boys are giving everything they have. They seem to be very much motivated. I have spoken to the overseas players and they also seem motivated and they want to play for Pakistan,” Stephen said. “I think everyone realizes these two games massive for Pakistan’s football future. And we will give everything we have in both games and make a little bit of history going into the second round. I think if we focus on the game and if we get the support from the people around us so it’s possible. Some people think it as football things. This is not football things this is the country and this is the national pride,” Stephen said.
“There are 211 countries which play football around and we (Pakistan) are ranked 197. It’s about time we change that. And only which we can change that is by the support of everybody, not three or four people in the PFF but the whole community will have to be united and back Pakistan football as one family,” the coach said.
Asked from whom he got input before finalizing the squad which also carries seven overseas players Stephen said he had got through the skeleton reports from all the overseas players. “I have also their match reports and I have spoken to the five boys out of seven overseas. Among the local players some are under-23 and they had a recent tournament and I have enough people on the ground to help me in terms of selection. We have a goalkeeper coach who will decide on goalkeepers. I think it’s not an ideal but this is the situation which we have. I would like to have a month or six weeks but we don’t have a month or six weeks,” he said.
Asked about the difference between Pakistan and India as far as football is concerned the former India’s manager Stephen said that the talent in Pakistan is not being developed.
“We don’t have professional league in Pakistan which is a major problem, the biggest problem I will say,” he said.
“The difference between India and Pakistan is that back there India had a league, although, it was not a very good league but it was a league. There were 16 teams in that league and I was able to travel around the country, see players and select the players. In 2015 India was exactly in the same position as Pakistan is in. Indian players were playing in ISL started in 2014. Yes we (Pakistan) have a massive advantage of playing with overseas but our local players in Pakistan are not playing in national league. They play in department league or district league and the level is not going to be near what it needs to be. We are the only country in SAFF that can take players from outside. This is a huge advantage only if the boys in Pakistan are getting games. We are waiting for the national league to happen and if we don’t have it then we cannot win international games with four or five overseas players in the team,” Stephen said.
Stephen stressed that players need to understand their role.
“Everybody needs to understand what is his role is in the system. I don’t think this has been done in the last few months,” Stephen said.
“Everything at the moment is an area of concerns because of the previous results, because of the way we have approached the national team. All of it is a concern. But we will try to fix the things that we can. Every player should know what his role is and not try to do more than what his role is,” Stephen said.
“We have worked for the last four or five days to try to get some shape and idea how we are going to play. We had a couple of presentations and there will be a few more and hopefully by the time we will play the first game in Cambodia we are ready as we can be given the time-frame which we have had. I am not going to use excuse. It is what it is. I have spoken to most of the overseas players and my first question from them was ‘do you want to play for Pakistan’,” he said.
Asked how he will teach his philosophy to the overseas in just a couple of training sessions in Cambodia Stephen said he had spoken to them for 40 minutes each.
“They have the background and foundation. The game is the biggest teacher and if we are not playing how we can develop our players. I am trying to give the players which we have as much information which I can and hopefully when we get the combination,” Stephen signed off.